By JEANNE POLISOTO
Recently, I experienced the goings and comings of local politics within a week's period. First the Planning and Economic Development Committee (two hours) and the regular legislative meeting (three hours plus) made for an imaginative journey of nonsense in June.
It seems that all the past rhetoric and complaints have bordered on pay raises, overspending, too many legislators and lack of leadership by the county executive. The recurring issue of Chautauqua Lake's subsidy also was the hot topic in June, even though how much money to fund this asset has been debated for years.
Lake concerns were evident, but no one heard what the public was saying at some county meetings.
Being an avid proponent of sound environmental management with best practices in mind, it is hard to believe that anyone at the county level had been aware of the watershed plan for the county. The recent posturing, fighting for the position of power leadership, avoiding financial shortfalls and absence of knowledge seem to pepper the antics at these two meetings.
A summary sheet, "Chautauqua Lake Management Plan," produced with the help of Bergmann Associates, the Academy of Natural Sciences and Glenn Harbeck and Associates in cooperation with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy never saw the light of day in any discussion despite this document being available as a glossy handout at the regular legislative monthly meeting.
The Planning and Economic Development Committee in the third week chaired by Legislator Fred Croscut seemed noncommittal to this document, too. The proposal by Legislator Lori Cornell seemed quite direct on trying to get funding to reduce current levels of algae growth plus a long-range method to a possible solution - seemingly based with this summary sheet in mind. It appeared that no one on the committee had read her proposal nor were aware of this summary sheet and glossy handout either. Studies, reports and prior documents seemed to be uncited in the discussions by the committee and legislature.
Over 40 years ago there were headlines that spelled the "Death of Lake Erie" due to similar issues of dumping undesirable elements into the lake, as if it was a drain that had no further repercussions. As a general rule, ignorance reigns supreme and not learning from prior inappropriate ways of waste disposal earmarks the recurring mismanagement of natural resources. This tends to be the theme of some of the inept decision making by many county legislatures.
With all due respect to the members of the committee, the processing of this proposal was unacceptable. Party practices of being in control despite a lack of understanding were obvious. Mr. Croscut opened the floor discussion at the committee meeting under No. 7, "other" on the agenda and the public input earlier negated any further comments. Insiders kept popping up to make a point without any time limit, and then, that comment was countered by an opposing view.
Finally, out of nowhere, there was an agreed amount and the legal person started to write something to indicate the terms of this money allotment. After two hours, the mission had been accomplished and most everyone seemed eager to leave. As to any public comment of one, that needed to be done initially despite the discussion occurring afterwards.
There is a requirement to have the public involved. But alas, it would have been impossible to talk without being an "insider."
Furthermore, why would anyone from the public have something to say of importance since it appears that his/her input gets customarily disregarded in most other circumstances? Just look how long it has taken to reduce the number of legislators.
Fast forward to the regular legislative meeting in the fourth week when Ms. Cornell's proposal came up again as if she should have been satisfied with the $30,000. Somehow, there was a thread of concern and allegation about her self-serving motive that came to the forefront. Being quite determined to eliminate that impression, Ms. Cornell forged on despite this negative branding by others as being self-promoting rather than concern for the environment. Also, the word divisive was used to highlight a lack of cooperation by all parties due to Ms. Cornell. This kind of misinformation only leads to misinforming the public in a negative way.
To say the least, Republican comments about spending were suggestive of doom and gloom due to the deficit in next year's budget, "throwing money at the problem," "having Albany involved" and "$2.5 million expenditure" without mentioning the time span of six years. All in all, this resembled a sour-grapes attitude by these nay sayers.
Bottom line, public comments did make a difference to the already predetermined outcome by some county lawmakers, and it's about time. The seeming lack of preparation, factual details of the watershed management plan and promoting divisiveness by some legislators made for business as usual. And yet, the legislators could learn to be more responsive to the public, prepared by facts and limit their comments so the people's business gets done responsibly. Work for the people and not self-serving purposes would be appreciated.
Jeanne Polisoto is a Forestville resident.